May 25, 2016
When you think of sustainable energy, what comes to mind? For most people, solar and wind power would top the list, but many may not realize that sustainable energy can also be generated from on-farm plant matter and animal waste. Many farmers are already using this method, called “bioenergy”, which is produced from a variety of perennial plants (“biomass) that are used as a feed stock for energy and fuel production.
Through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), farmers can receive funding to offset some of the costs of establishing and producing crops like switch grass and willow for bioenergy production.
On May 23, 2016, USDA announced that BCAP funding has resumed for farmers and foresters growing and harvesting biomass for renewable energy and bio-based products. For fiscal year (FY) 2016, $3 million is available through the program.
Bioenergy production facilities that are interested in accepting biomass from producers must register with USDA by June 6.
Farmers, ranchers, and forest owners who fall within the following two existing project areas may enroll between June 15 and September 13. Enrollment can be completed through your local FSA office:
Farmers and foresters looking for incentives to remove biomass residues from fields or national forests for delivery to energy generation facilities can apply between June 15 and August 4, 2016. Payments are provided at a cost-share match of $1:$1, up to $20 per dry ton. Eligible residues include corn residue, diseased or insect-infested wood materials, and orchard waste.
Removing too much residue from a field can result in diminished soil health, increased erosion, and impaired water quality, so producers who are interested in collecting, storing, and transporting residues should work closely with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to implement a comprehensive conservation plan.
Appropriations for FY 2017
The proposed Senate and House appropriations bills for FY 2017 are poised to slash farm bill mandatory funding for BCAP by a staggering 88 percent, from $25 million to $3 million. The same budget reduction, or “CHIMP-ing” (changes in mandatory program spending), was made to BCAP last year in the FY 2016 final appropriations bill.
Farm bill funding levels, also known as “mandatory” funding levels, are the purview of the Agriculture Committees, not the Appropriations Committees. The FY 2017 funding level for BCAP was already decided in the 2014 Farm Bill, and therefore should not be undone by appropriators, whose job is to allocate discretionary funding, not to rewrite legislation and change farm bill mandatory funding decisions.
NSAC will track and report on the outcomes of appropriations negotiations as the process continues.